Before starting, I’d like to say that this year has truly been great for music. Some bands on hiatus have regrouped, others have forged new paths, and still more have broken barriers set by genre-conscious critics. All together 2012 have kept me totally intrigued, and even opened my ears to new sounds.
1) The Menzingers: On The Impossible Past.
This band has always been creative, genuine and fun. However, on this year’s album they have placed themselves at the helm of punk rock today. This record has reinvigorated traditional punk values, and the band, themselves, represent the scene in the same way that bands like Bad Religion and Pennywise had done years prior. Musically the album is well textured and interesting, as I haven’t heard tonal structures like theirs in quite a while. I think my favorite parts, though, are the stories told throughout the record on songs like “Casey” and “Mexican Guitars.” I love how various themes like American muscle cars are carried throughout the record, and the duality of the vocals makes the words comes to life. Their was no question On The Impossible Past was going to be my record of the year, because this album was created with so much heart and hard work.
2) No Trigger: Tycoon
I cannot begin to count how many times I’ve played this record since obtaining it. I cannot get over how perfectly the band blends elements of hardcore intensity with melodic precision. The drumming alone on this record is as creative as most percussionists are over a lifetime. The layering of guitars, bass lines, and vocals creates depth and dimension unlike many hardcore records that carry the same rhythms throughout each song. I continue to find new pieces and riffs that I love each time I listen through the album.
3) The Gaslight Anthem: Handwritten
I honestly believe that Brian Fallon and the rest of TGA can do no wrong. This record holds true to the band’s previously developed persona, while continuing to move it forward. The album blends the classic blue collar soul that Gaslight is famous for with some very excellent punk pieces that I believe were missing from American Slang. The band has made giant leaps forward over the past year, gaining exceptional popularity, while still maintaining the same ideals they had as a young band. I am proud of this record, The Gaslight Anthem, and the way they fit into the music industry.
4) Enter Shikari: A Flash Flood of Colour
I have always been a fan of Enter Shikari, as they originally caught my eye by blurring the lines between critic-defined genres. I think their sound has been perfected on this album, and in doing so the band has set themselves outside any possible genre. Beyond their musically creative base, this record may be even more anti-political than Anti-Flag’s Die For The Government. I love that they take neither a conservative or liberal side. Rather, the lyrics are rooted in disgust over any political agenda because they rarely take any consideration for actual human rights. I honestly believe that this record has made some real noise, and it is one that I can truly take a stance alongside.
5) Title Fight: Floral Green
Just like with Shed, I find myself going back to spin this album on my turntable over and over since I’ve owned it. Without surprise, Title Fight has already solidified themselves as frontrunners of modern punk. Floral Green is quite packed with a variety of tones, textures, and moods. In the same record I get angst and anger from songs like “Numb, But I Still Feel It” and “Frown,” and also feel melancholy from “Head In The Ceiling Fan” and “In-Between.” This band is full of endless potential with talent to back that up and this album does nothing but prove it.
6) With The Punches: Seams and Stiches
It seems that over the past year, the genre of pop-punk has been thrown around, and even received some negative connotation. I do understand it on some level, when bands abuse the genre to write generic and uninteresting music to fit some kind of fad, however, I do believe their is still an unlimited amount of promise and potential for musicians that forge new paths for the genre with talent and creativity. With The Punches is without a doubt one of those bands. This record brings outstanding lyrics from an on key, powerful, and gritty Jesse Vadala, as well as powerful drumming, insane guitar shredding, and steady bass lines from Shane Maziekien, Dustin Wallace, Vinnie Guzzardi, and Mike Corvasce.
7) The Early November: In Currents
When I heard that The Early November had reunited to do some touring, I became irrationally excited. I have been a fan since middle school, and became even more connected with their music as I grew older. After discovering the band was going to release a new record, I will admit that I was skeptical. Many artists comeback releases are skeletons of the what the band once represented. This was not the case with In Currents. The band came back with serious power, and this is some of the most compelling material they’ve written. I love the melodies, the intensity of the songs, the richness (and not-so-subtle cynicism) of the lyrics, and the sense of renewed energy I get from this record.
8) Macklemore & Ryan Lewis: The Heist
I have always been a fan of hip-hop, not so much the mindless Top 40 crap you hear on Kiss FM, but rather the work of those like NWA, The Beastie Boys, and of course Common. For me, hip-hop is a very lyrically centered realm of music, and that is what I look for first. Whether Ben Haggerty (Macklemore) is rapping on more serious topics like drug addiction, homosexuality in America, and poverty, or he is enjoying himself lyrically over topics like thrift store shopping, his creative wordplay can be held high with the greats. Alongside him, Ryan Lewis has made some of the best music to match Ben’s words. The melodies and rhythms capture the mood within every rhyme. I am also highly impressed that the duo created this album themselves. That kind of work ethic is hard to come by these days, and is highly honorable.
9) Parkway Drive: Atlas
Of course I had to include at least one metal record on this list, and the choice was easy. Parkway Drive have brought new elements to their established sound, and I absolutely love it. After seeing them perform live, I noticed that their stage presence was one of most punk and hardcore bands, constantly moving around on stage and smiling the entire time (not like many metal acts such as Whitechapel or Emmure). I feel as though they have taken this energy and enjoyment and put it into their sound. I see a lot of elements taken from hardcore acts, ranging from the drum beats, to guitar parts. Even some vocals seem more throat heavy that scream-ish. These new elements blend perfectly with classic PWD guitar riffs, drumming, bass solos, and deep vocals. The subject matter is also quite intriguing, as Winston McCall points out poor decisions made by humanity as we slowly destroy Mother Earth. As a whole, this record is metal perfection in my book.
10) I Call Fives: Self Titled
There is something special about early 2000’s era Drive Thru Records music. I Call Fives have breathed new life into the genre, and captured this feeling that swells the heart in the process.
Not only have they composed their best songwriting to date, but they have well constructed lyrics to boast as well. With quick, melodic precision, songs like “Obvious” and “Stuck In ’03,” the album flows wells and keeps me looking for new pieces to love. Lyrically, themes cover issues in all types of relationships from multiple points of view. I can hear tones of understanding as well as disdain, and I love the ride I take when I listen to this album.
Taylor Swift: Red
Childish Gambino: Royalty
Mixtapes: Even On The Worst Nights
Major League: Hard Feelings
Further Seems Forever: Penny Black